The settlement, the first of its kind in California, includes an immediate change to Kern High School District discipline practices and an acknowledgment by the school district that students of color face higher rates of discipline than white students.
KHSD agreed to implement major policy changes to reduce the disproportionate suspensions, expulsions and involuntary school transfers of African American and Latino students.
The immediate and profound policy changes required by the settlement are based on approaches developed by nationally recognized experts, including Dr. Jeffrey Sprague of the University of Oregon, Rachel Godsil of the Perception Institute, Dr. Jon Eyler of Collaborative Learning Solutions, Dr. Nancy Dome of Epoch Education, and Dr. Edward Fergus of New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development Center for Equity and Achievement.
The settlement requires that KHSD specifically:
• Implement mandatory training for teachers and staff (including security and police) to include cultural competence, implicit bias, racial anxiety, stereotype threat, Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports (PBIS) and the Uniform Complaint Process that students or parents may use to complain about discriminatory practices;
• Issue public reports regarding alternative discipline practices, data on school discipline rates, school survey results, and training that has been done at each of the schools to hold the District accountable, as well as staffing patterns and an annual report assessing the comparative services offered at the continuation high schools;
• Organize and facilitate two public forums each school year to report to and get feedback from the community on the student behavior, discipline data, school climate survey results and training;
• Provide translation of all documents related to disciplinary actions in the primary language of the parent and/or student and interpretation at all discipline proceedings; and
• Provide educational funds to the 14 individual student plaintiffs (a maximum of $5,000 per student, total of $70,000) who were suspended, expelled or involuntarily transferred from their regular school.
Located in California’s Central Valley, the 38,000-student Kern High School District is 62 percent Latino and 6.3 percent African American. In 2009-10, KHSD reported the highest actual number of expulsions in California, even when compared to far larger school districts, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District. In that year, the percentage of African American and Latino students taken out of their local schools and assigned to alternative schools was double that of white students.
The alternative schools offer fewer academic and extracurricular opportunities and limited access to courses required to enroll in California universities. Students in these alternative schools have higher dropout rates and lower graduation rates, hurting their overall ability to succeed in life.
Latino and African American students enrolled in the Kern High School District, together with their parents and community activist organizations Dolores Huerta Foundation, National Brotherhood Association, and Faith in Kern, obtained the historic settlement in their challenge to discriminatory practices.
The plaintiffs were represented by a coalition of civil rights lawyers, including California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA), MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), Equal Justice Society, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc. (GBLA), and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, P.C.
The settlement with the Kern High School District (KHSD) Board of Trustees was the result of a three-year court battle to stop years of discriminatory discipline practices that deprived African American and Latino students of their right to an education.